When an individual dies, the remains of his/her estate will be distributed to loved ones. This is often done following the specifications of a will, or a document that an individual drafts prior to death, that details how he/she wants his/her estate to be distributed. This process is also completed if an individual did not create a will prior to his/her death.
In instances such as this, the established laws of intestacy will determine how the property is distributed. For example, in most instances, the estate will be divided among an individual’s spouse and children. In some cases, the deceased’s parents, if still alive, will be provided with some assets. If an individual wants to ensure that each of these individuals, or additional people, are adequately cared for following his/her death, he/she should create a will.
The responsibility of distributing an individual’s estate falls to an administrator or an executor. In order to acquire this role, an individual or business entity must be given letters testamentary. Letters testamentary are documents that are given to the appointed administrator, providing him/her with the authority to distribute the estate. It is the duty of the court within the deceased’s jurisdiction to issue testamentary letters.
A number of different individuals or organizations can be appointed as an executor. In many cases, attorneys are granted executive authority. However, banks also commonly take on this role, as do other types of organizations. The executive that is appointed is obligated to read through the will and distribute the estate accordingly, or to adhere to intestacy laws.